Halkidiki is one of the most beautiful parts of Greece, blessed with a varied and delightful natural landscape, friendly local people, important archaeological sites, glorious beaches and superb cuisine. Discover the region in all its glory with a tour that takes in many of its attractions, and some of its secrets.
When the impressive Petralona Cave was discovered in 1959, 300m above sea level in the western foothills of Mt. Katsikas, it revealed an ancient and hidden world. The interior of the cave was found to contain fossilized bones of animals – lions, hyenas, bears, panthers, elephants, etc. – as well as a very well preserved human skull, the oldest human find ever uncovered in Greece. The cave features stalactites and stalagmites of extraordinary quality, as well as a corridor cut into the rock over a length of 400m. Visitors may enter the cave every day from 9am to one hour before sunset. The next stop on the tour is Nea Potidaia, with its landmark canal cutting through the head of the peninsula. The town is also home to the fish taverna Marina (6 Golden Hat awards for Greek cuisine, and 2 Gourmet awards). The fish is always fresh, purchased from the catches of the best fishing vessels in the harbour, and the most popular dishes are steamed mussels, the octopus stew and the lobster macaroni. Directly opposite the restaurant you’ll find the Bayamo beach bar, with great music and superb cocktails.
In Nea Gonia, just down the road, you’ll find the workshops and saleroom of the business Ta Ntolmadakia tis Mariannas, famed throughout Greece for its superb stuffed vine leaves, as well as jams, preserved fruits and traditional pies. Now we drive on to Sani, an Eretrian colony with an important role in ancient history. Admire the impressive Sani Hill, 8m in height, built in 1543 to protect the dependency of the Stavronikita Monastery, on the site of the acropolis of ancient Sani. This is where the concerts are held each year in the Sani Festival, which attracts star performers from Greece and farther afield. It is an area of fabulous beaches, and also boasts an important wetland.
Within the Sani Marina you will find some of the best restaurants in Greece as Tomata (tel. 23740 99465) where chef Chrysanthos Karamolegos performs culinary miracles. The travel magazine Condé Nast Traveller ranked the restaurant among the 25 best in Europe, and Karamolegos has won a whole host of other awards. Nearby is the fish taverna Alexis (tel. 23740 31176), recognized as the best fish taverna in Halkidiki, and one of the best in Greece. Simple and elegant, the restaurant is set among lofty trees and a variety of Mediterranean flowers and plants; the menu features fresh fish, superb salads, shellfish,fried mussels – the very best of raw ingredients cooked with the highest level of artistry.